Before working on these Notable Missourian story illustrations for Truman State University Press, I honestly had no idea who Stan Musial was. So I was surprised when I'd mention this project to people and if they had so much as an inkling of Cardinals fandom they would indignantly declare that Stan was not a Notable Missourian, he was a Famous Missourian.
So How did this amazing baseball player who grew up in poor coal mining country in Pennsylvania to Polish parents become one of the best known names in baseball in the 40s, 50s and 60s? If you mentioned "Stan the Man" during that time, everybody knew exactly who you were talking about. So why don't folks remember him now with the other baseball greats?
After reading this story and watching some videos I honestly think its because he was simply a nice guy! He wasn't a tortured soul, he wasn't an ass, he wasn't a drunk or a womanizer. Basically he didn't have that juicy backstory that makes for great movies. He married his high school sweetheart, he went to church, he was warm and welcoming when the league started to integrate and many players were...well.. not warm and welcoming. He even befriended a young cardinal in Poland who just happened to end up becoming Pope John Paul the II. Their friendship was a close, casual one that lasted their lifetimes. I mean think about that. The guy was a buddy with the pope. Nice guy!
So anyways, Learning about Stan Musial was refreshing. His legacy stands on his excellence in his profession and his being a nice guy. It may not linger like the legacy of more dramatic and controversial figures in sports, but I don't think he would want it any other way. Hell I don't know why any of us would?